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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Assembly lambasts UTG’s management of funds, threatens to block subvention

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By Tabora Bojang

Members of the Finance and Public Accounts Committee of the National Assembly have expressed dissatisfaction with the manner funds are managed, recorded and accounted for at the University of The Gambia following discoveries of discrepancies in its 2019- 2020 audited accounts.

The Committee also threatened to block the institution’s subvention in the budget if improvements are not made.

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The UTG authorities, led by Governing Council Chairman Mathew Ndure and Finance Director Ousainou Corr, faced tough questioning from NAMs who are seemingly unhappy with a litany of holes discovered in their audit report.

Nominated lawmaker Kebba Lang Fofana, himself an accountant and auditor, observed that the audit revealed inaccurate financial records on the University’s tuition fees, its receivables, payables and fixed asset register.

Fofana criticised the UTG finance department for what he called its “inadequate capacity” and urged management to look into the level of competence in that department.

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Finance Director Corr, who agreed that the University faces capacity gaps in its finance department with only one qualified accountant, said the management is working to address all the audit queries and concerns pointed out in the report before a certain time frame.

Committee chairman and member for Upper Saloum, Alagie Mbowe, warned the management to prioritise preparing their 2021 accounts before September or October.

“Otherwise, we cannot guarantee that we will approve your subvention for next year until you comply,” he warned.

According to Mbow, the plenary has agreed in its last session that public institutions which fail to accurately prepare their audited accounts will not get their budget estimates approved.

In response, UTG Governing Council Chairman Ndure assured NAMs that the management will do everything to avert getting into such a situation.

Continuing his observation, NAM Fofana charged that any commitment to address the audit findings in the absence of a clear strategy will not help resolve the concerns.

“As we move on, the issues are just compounding. It is not just about finishing those financial statements but the quality of the work. The auditors have expressed an adverse opinion and that would not go down well,” he added.

Auditor General Modou Ceesay said: “These [audit queries] are very long outstanding issues and they will have an impact going forward. We have given them a timeline of September for another audit and that means they have to clear all these problems before you can prepare an accurate, credible account to the present day. I think the UTG will have to make a deliberate effort to build the capacity of the finance department. That is very important in getting the results that this committee and other accountability institutions hold them for.”

The UTG authorities also disclosed to lawmakers about their plans to enhance efficiency and consistency in its financial management and accounting frameworks and procedures.

According to the finance director, the UTG has hired consultants from Nigeria to do among other things automated banking reconciliation, journal entry, validation of all payment vouchers against all cash books, validation of the portal against the general ledger and ensure the updated fixed asset register is uploaded into the financial system.

However, committee chairman Mbowe criticised this move as inappropriate and protested that there are competent Gambian accountants who could do the job instead of hiring expertise outside. “Why would you bring people from Nigeria when we have Gambians that are qualified to do this?”, he said.

According to Finance Director Corr, the consultants are coming from the same company that built the current system in place. 

Auditor General Ceesay also observed that he expected this kind of consultancy services by the UTG to go through an advertisement requesting for services in the country. He argued that such services are very much available in the country and working with local accountants would be more ideal.

The FPAC further recommended that the Governing Council Chairman to do the necessary to deploy the Integrated Financial Management and Information System IFMIS which is used by government agencies and department

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